Good Friday: Out of Control

Scripture: Luke 23:44-46

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to feel like things are in control. I don’t need to necessarily be in control, but I need to trust that someone who knows what they’re doing is. And so I make lists, because if I can organize the chaos in my mind, then I feel like I am in control of it. And I make plans B and C and D. And sometimes I micromanage, to make sure that someone else has thought of all the same details that I have. And too often, I worry, about what happens when things don’t go right.

It’s not a good time in our world to be a person who needs to feel like things are in control.

But it’s Good Friday and it feels a little bit liturgically correct to feel like everything is out of control, because on Good Friday, everything is – or at least it seems to be. Good Friday is out of control because we really do, deep down, want to know that good wins over evil in the end and it gets better and the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, and on Good Friday, all of those things threaten not to be true. On Good Friday, the forces of sin and death and evil have their final say. The Gospel writers tell us that darkness covered the earth from noon to three pm as Jesus hung on the cross – darkness, during the day, symbolizing the reversal of created order. It’s existential chaos – not unlike now.

It’s not the same, I know; the world has seen hard times before, and yet as I read the news these days and it’s all surging death tolls and photographs of makeshift morgues and warnings to not even leave the house for groceries if you can help it, it’s hard to just believe that everything is going to be OK, and in fact, it seems for some people at least, it isn’t. And what kind of sense or order is there to the universe if everything isn’t going to be OK?

In the Matthew and Mark, Jesus himself seems to express that existential agony as he dies on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He may know what’s on the other side of all this – the Gospels tell us he does – but in the moment it must have been easy to forget. The one who is God is forsaken by God; on Good Friday nothing makes sense. In John, by contrast, even as things look their worst, Jesus is always calm and in control, and as he dies, he bows his head and says serenely, “It is finished.”

In Luke, though, we meet a Jesus somewhere in the middle, whose last words on the cross are “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

He knows, presumably, that there is life on the other side of this; he may not know at that moment of his death just what that looks like or what it means to get from A to B. But he knows the God who has been with him from the beginning, the one he calls Abba, the one who is love. And so, even on the cross, he is able to say these words of trust; even in death, he offers his life into God’s loving hands.

I find solace in those words at times like this. “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” I may not know what the future holds and I certainly can’t control what it looks like – how close this sickness will come to me, what claim it will lay to me, what claim it will lay to my loved ones, or what it will mean for life as we know it moving forward. What is there to do but to keep moving forward in the footsteps of Jesus when death threatens to win? What is there to do but to entrust my life and the lives of those I love into the hands of the one who is love, who has loved us from the beginning?

 

Prayer:

Merciful God, we entrust our lives and spirits to your care. In the days of our greatest fear and grief, we choose to believe that you are working for good. We may not know what lies ahead, but we know that you are love. May we hold fast to this truth, on this day and every day. Amen.

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